Pete Philo: President of TPG Sports and Founder of Pro Scout School

Known as one of the world’s best talent evaluators, Pete Philo was revolutionary in creating the “pre-draft” style Eurocamp for nine consecutive years. In those nine years he helped over 82 players enhance their global reputation in front of NBA scouts and General Managers, which enabled them to be selected in the NBA draft. Pete’s impressive tenure also includes time scouting with the Indiana Pacers (Head of Scouting), Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks as well as Team China for the London Olympics. He has spent over 20 years in the business scouting players from over 70 different countries evaluating talent.  Pete played collegiately at Manhattan College, the University of South Alabama and professionally from 1996-2001 in seven different countries. After retiring from scouting Pete created TPG Sports Group and Pro Scout School.

Relationships = Good Information 

“Information doesn’t win, good information wins.” With over 20 years of evaluating on and off court potential of players from across the globe, Pete Philo knows how to do what it takes to get good information on every aspect of a prospect. From on court potential, to learning style, to how a prospect treats a manager and even their conduct at a bar, no stone goes unturned when an organization is evaluating who they should select in a draft or trade situation. The decision makers for every NBA organization need every piece of information available to make the best decision pick they can. Finding that information is the biggest responsibility of an NBA scout.The good information every scout needs comes from only one source, good relationships. Like we have said via other interviews on The Coaching Assist, if you are in the basketball business you are in the people and relationship business. No one succeeds in this game alone.

As an example, put yourself in the shoes of a first year unknown NBA scout. If you as the scout make a phone call to legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski looking for information on a potential pick, and Pete, who has twenty years of experience and relationships in the business, call at the same time, who is getting a call back?  More importantly who is going to have a conversation that gives the most accurate picture of who the prospect is? The scout with the relationship is always going to get the call back and more than likely get better information. Good information wins and that only comes from good relationships.

Your success as a scout is directly linked to the relationships that you have and maintain and this is often misconstrued by those just starting out. As a young scout or coach in the business you have to be diligent in the relationships you create and maintain knowing that every relationship is give and take. A mistake Pete often sees young people in the business making is that they become information takers and never information givers. Those that take and never give stop getting and often don’t make it as NBA scouts.

Evaluating On Court – Transferable Skills 

What makes a player successful at one level doesn’t necessarily mean success at the next level (hint: Jimmer Fredette). Regardless of the level you coach/scout/recruit you have to figure out what leads to success from one level to the next. NBA scouts spend 200 or more days of the year on the road watching players from every level across the world and knowing what transfers from one style of play to another can make or break you as a scout. For example many NBA scouts almost regard the international game as an entirely different sport (different rules, strategies and philosophies). It is very hard to tell if a player that succeeds overseas will succeed in the NBA. In these situations you have to evaluate the skill sets of the player and that of the team that is interested in them. San Antonio has had great success with international players because Coach Popovich plays team basketball that resembles a more international style. Most other teams have the superstar model which often doesn’t work for international players as they were molded into team first systems as they learned to play. At times international players come in with a team mentality that doesn’t always fit the style of every NBA team.  Predicting whether or not a player can transfer their game can be a gamble but as those who have selected big name players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol know, it can be a game changer for a team.

Each individual scout and team has a system for how they evaluate and what skills they want their players to have. Most of this is position specific and we will later share a PDF breakdown of skills by position that Pete shared with me and Pro Scout School attendees. On the other hand, regardless of position, whenever you draft players high up in the draft you are simply looking to take the best player, regardless of position and your team needs. Find the best players and create a system that fits the strengths of the players you have. Also to note is that they decide on the “position” of the player based on who they can guard on defense, not what they can do on offense. The hardest players to evaluate are those that are “tweeners”, or are on the edge of positions such as could be a small forward or play a large guard. These types of players have so many variables that a lot goes into play as to how they adapt in the NBA.

An early mistake Pete admits to making is coming to decisions on players too quickly (a great lesson for all young coaches!). When he started out as a scout he would at times make decisions on guys after only seeing them play once. A seasoned scout knows that you have to look at the total player to project who they will become and not just a snap shot of who that player is on one night. While at Pro Scout School a panel of scouting experts advised coaches and scouts to give every player the eyes, ears, and numbers test when evaluating. What do you see when you watch him or her play? What are other people saying about them? Finally, what kind of numbers are they producing consistently against good competition? It’s nearly impossible to encompass all that a player is with only seeing him or her once.

Pete’s rule of thumb when he was still an active scout was to see a player live at least three times (hopefully 4 or 5) and then use film as an additional tool to evaluate if needed. As a young coach or scout it is also important to remember that you can’t watch the game like a fan. The score to the game often doesn’t matter and being caught up in emotion when evaluating isn’t your job. Your job is to focus in on whether or not this player will be able to help your team win at the next level.

Evaluating Off the Court

Most college coaches have great stories of the lengths they went to in order to land that big recruit that changed their program. In the NBA the stakes are even higher, in return making the mountains even higher to climb while evaluating if this is a player your organization should spend millions of dollars investing in or not. In addition to on court evaluations off the court evaluations are thoroughly conducted for every potential pick. Most teams will have a psychologist evaluate the players in an interview that the GM, Head Coach and top executives often sit in on. These interviews evaluate the character that this potential pick has and projects who they will become. Depending on your market you have to decide what non-negotiables you need from everyone on your team. Organizations and scouts will ask any and everyone that they can about who a player really is. The player every NBA scout is looking for doesn’t just have the unbelievable on the court talent but has to have NBA level character when they think no one is watching.

Over Time:

  • Get better every year. In year 15 Pete was a better scout than in year 14.
    • Look back on what players do in the NBA and what you predicted they would do when you saw them.
  • Drop your ego. Try to understand what you don’t know and find the right people to help you.
  • Pete would often ask prospects questions that he or the organization already knew the answer to to see if they would be honest.
  • Be genuine, not everyone is going to get along but  being a good person doesn’t cost you anything.

You can follow Pete on twitter @TPGsportsgroup and be sure to watch out for Pete’s 2018 Pro Scout School! 

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